Wales set for night of nerves against Turkey

Published on: 20 November 2023

‘We’re all disappointed but have to pick ourselves up’Euro 2024 qualifying: Wales v TurkeyVenue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Tuesday, 21 November Kick-off: 19:45 GMTCoverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport website and app, plus live text. Highlights on Match of the Day Wales, BBC One Wales from 22: 40 GMT and later on demand

Wales host Turkey in their final Euro 2024 qualifier on Tuesday night knowing their dreams of a direct route to next summer's finals will be decided both in Cardiff and Croatia.

Wales' 1-1 draw in Armenia on Saturday saw them lose control of their own destiny in Group D.

It means Rob Page's side must beat already-qualified Turkey in Cardiff and hope Croatia drop points at home to Armenia in Zagreb.

Should a sellout Cardiff City Stadium crowd not get the two results they desire to reach the finals in Germany, Wales do have the relative luxury of being assured of a place in March's play-offs.

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However, discussions of fall-backs and fail-safes have not been welcome in the Wales camp while the possibility of automatic qualification remains.

"We're having no talk of play-offs," said Wales manager Page.

"If we're talking play-offs, we may as well call the game off on Tuesday. That's our mentality and attitude.

"The campaign is not over. If you'd have seen training, you will see the players don't believe it's over. We're fully focused on the job we've got and we don't want any regrets when that final whistle goes.

"We want to take control of ourselves and the last thing is not give the level of performance we did against Croatia (in October's win in Cardiff) and the result has gone for us elsewhere. That would be a devastating blow to take."

Wales have already suffered their share of blows during this bid to reach a fourth major championships out of the past five.

After a positive start with an unexpected opening draw in Croatia and a straightforward home win against Latvia, Wales seemed set for the play-offs following disastrous back-to-back defeats against Armenia at home and Turkey in Samsun during the summer.

A win in Latvia and last month's superb Cardiff success against Croatia swung the odds of a top-two finish back in Welsh favour, before Saturday's frustration in Yerevan handed advantage back to Croatia.

Page, the subject of much speculation and scrutiny over his position since the summer, said he had no remorse over his selection and tactics in Armenia, whose own qualification hopes ended when Croatia beat bottom side Latvia on Saturday evening.

However, Page will be fully aware that there will be regrets if Wales do not fulfil their side of the bargain should Armenia succeed in denying Croatia the victory they need.

"We had a meeting to address it because we wanted to make sure full focus is on Tuesday's game," Page said. "We're not admitting defeat and thinking 'why not?' when it's still in our control.

"We're not thinking of the play-offs because if we win a game potentially we can qualify if the other result goes our way. What I don't want to do is walk off at the end of the game with one eye on the play-offs and the result's gone for us and we could have taken charge of it."

Turkey a threat

While there will be understandable Welsh supporter attention on events in Croatia, beating Turkey will be a task in itself.

Having secured their place in Germany last month courtesy of a win over Latvia, they now need only a point to top the group.

Turkey have changed managers since their 2-0 win over 10-man Wales in June, Stefan Kuntz making way after being held by Armenia.

He was replaced by former Roma striker and AC Milan manager Vincenzo Montella who has won all three of his games in charge, including a crucial 1-0 win in Croatia last month.

"We have come all this way to Cardiff prepared," Montella said.

"We have come here top of this group and that is the way we want to finish it.

"We want to maintain this leadership and we are focused on what we have to do, show our standing and our performance levels."

Turkey arrive in Cardiff without their captain, Inter Milan defender Hakan Calhanoglu who is ill, while Real Madrid teenager Arda Guler is out injured.

That did not stop them impressing in a 3-2 friendly win over Euro hosts Germany in Berlin on Tuesday, including a first international goal from Juventus teenager Kenan Yildiz.

"The new manager has had an instant impact, he's slightly changed the way they play since we played them, and the result against Germany was very impressive," added Page.

"It will be a tough game, but we have a plan that will create problems for them and it will make for an entertaining game."

Team news

Manager Page has no fresh injury concerns heading into the game, although admitted his side's first back-to-back competitive games in five months - combined with a lack of game time for some of his squad - could influence selection.

As could the need for dynamism, hinting at recalls for Brennan Johnson and Daniel James who both came off the bench in Yerevan.

"What we do need, from minute one, is energy," Page said. "Off the back of [Turkey's] result against Germany and the threat they pose, we have to have energy in that team."

One change will be forced upon him; Chris Mepham is suspended after collecting his third caution of the campaign. Luton Town's Tom Lockyer is tipped to replace him at centre-back in what would be his first competitive appearance in a Wales shirt since September 2021.

Page remains without regular captain Aaron Ramsey through injury, with Ben Davies again leading the side in his place.

Full-backs Niall Huggins and Jay Dasilva could make their debuts after being called up to the squad for the first time and remaining on the bench in Armenia.

Match facts

    This is the first meeting of the sides on Welsh soil since 1996, a goalless draw in December 1996 in a World Cup qualifier.Wales are unbeaten in their three previous home games with Turkey (won two, drawn one), keeping a clean sheet in all three.Turkey have avoided defeat in just two of their 14 away internationals against home nations.Wales have lost three of their past six competitive home games (won two, drawn one), one more than they had in their previous 26 matches.Turkey have won each of their past four away internationals, including three in this qualifying campaign.Harry Wilson has scored each of Wales' past three goals in competitive home internationals, netting in the 4-2 home defeat to Armenia as well as both goals in their 2-1 win over Croatia.